The process of choosing the best online university is not an easy one. But the temptation many students who are new to the process fall victim to is a focus on the end product of higher learning – the degree – and a neglect of the considerations that go into earning it: skills, new resources, career opportunities and a fresh outlook.
At a physical university, these things are a given, with students sitting side-by-side with others and progressing through the coursework together. But sometimes this isn’t the case with online universities that often use message boards, email and instant messaging to communicate between students and instructors. In the process, the connectivity – often cited as a huge component to the learning process for many students – is lost.
Online course offerings vary from school to school, with some providing little to no physical interaction while others offer extensive hands-on experience and direct instruction from teachers. So depending on your abilities and desired level of involvement, it’s important to find the style of instruction that works best for you.
As the process of distance learning continues to grow in popularity, modern universities are dedicating more focus to the experience of learning, adapting many of their successful existing degrees and programs to an online format. So when comparing programs, you should be on the lookout for a single word: accreditation.
Simply put, when it comes to investing in online education, you want the best. Just like anything else you buy, products and services produced by quality firms will usually beat out the generic competitors due to a higher level of commitment to quality. The same is true of online universities. And accreditation is a university’s stamp of approval.
An accredited college adheres to a nationally-recognized curriculum and, among other contributing factors, maintains that accreditation through the continuous education of their instructors. Accreditation also greatly impacts the availability of financial assistance, often a major consideration that enables students to achieve their educational goals.
With online education, this becomes exponentially more important. Accreditation deals with far more than just the quality and reputation of an online degree. It’s a direct indicator of how and if your college credits will transfer to other higher learning institutions and, more importantly, if employers will recognize a degree or certificate in consideration for employment. In addition, accreditation is often viewed as a crucial component when determining the transferability of credits, as well as the recognition of qualifications and conferred degrees.
There are a number of national and regional online resources that provide unbiased information on university accreditation. The most notable include:
However, if you’ve conducted your research and found that the university offering the program you need is not accredited, don’t give up. Not all online colleges are accredited. Many legitimate universities are either too new to be granted accreditation or they’ve chosen not to pursue it. So if the college you’re interested in is not accredited, do a little extra digging to determine whether or not the program they’re offering is legitimate.